House completes veto override on voter-ID bill
By Lee Hogan
The Arkansas House on Monday completed an override of Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of a bill that will require Arkansas voters to present photo identification before casting ballots.
The override passed the chamber, 52-45.
The Arkansas Senate completed the first leg of defeating Beebe's veto of Senate Bill 2 on Wednesday, voting 21-12 to override the veto. Each chamber, both Republican-controlled, needed a simple majority vote.
The Arkansas House delayed the override vote last week, failing to bring up the matter before the House convened Monday.
Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier, brought the override vote before the House.
Meeks said the bill has been one of the more, if not the most debated bill this session, and told his fellow lawmakers that their vote on this legislation would come up during re-election campaigns.
Meeks brought up concerns about voter fraud and said the legislation would answer some of those concerns.
"Senate Bill 2 protects the integrity of the vote in Arkansas," Meeks said.
Meeks told Democratic members of the House that he understood they were in a position of having to support their party's leader, but asked them to set aside their party affiliations in this vote.
"We work for the citizens of Arkansas," Meeks said.
Meeks was the only member to speak for the legislation. Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, was the only member of the House to speak against Senate Bill 2.
Walker said Meeks' concerns with voter fraud were unfounded and that he supported Beebe's veto.
Walker said the debate on voter identification goes back to the civil rights movement and said, "you won't find any House members of my color supporting this bill."
Beebe vetoed the bill last Monday because it was "an expensive solution in search of a problem" and would infringe on voters' rights. Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, will require the state to provide free photo IDs to voters who do not have one. The estimated state cost is $300,000.
Monday's vote by the House completed the third successful override of a Beebe veto this session by Arkansas lawmakers. The previous two overrides both dealt with abortion-ban legislation.
In an interview with Arkansas Online following the override, Arkansas American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Rita Sklar said she was disappointed with Arkansas lawmakers, as a whole.
"It's been a very bad legilslative session for democracy in Arkansas," Sklar said.
The Arkansas ACLU has said the legislation is unconstitutional and said it would look at its options after a decision from lawmakers.
"I think we're headed to court," Sklar said.
Sklar said the greatest affect of Senate Bill 2 would be felt by senior citizens, minorities, immigrants and women.
Sklar could not give a time table on when action would be taken against Senate Bill 2, but said the ACLU attorneys would study the issue and be prepared. Sklar said she was confident on the potential outcome in court.
"We don't undertake anything we think we can't win," she said.
Poll workers are currently required to ask voters for identification, but voters are still allowed to vote if they do not have an ID.
The bill will take effect Jan. 1, 2014, but only if the state has the money to issue voter ID cards.
Read more in Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.